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UK net exporter of fresh potatoes in 2017/18 season so far

Publication Date: 
22 June 2018

Daniel Rooney, Analyst, daniel.rooney@ahdb.org.uk, 02476 478840

Following the large harvest of over 6Mt of potatoes in 2016/17 there has been an abundance of potatoes in GB stores. This has pressured prices domestically with a clear divergence on the basis of quality, especially for white varieties. Increased domestic production last season has translated to an observed reduction in fresh potato imports to the UK so far this season. However, only a slight increase in exports of fresh potatoes from the UK has been reported this year, which reflects the increased production also observed in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

 

Fresh potatoes (excluding seed):

Due in part to the large harvest of potatoes in GB last season, imports of fresh potatoes (HS070190) have declined so far in 2017/18. This is shown in figure 1.

Between July 2017 and April 2018 fresh potato imports declined by 35% from year earlier figures to 109.9Kt and down 29% from five year average imports (Jul-Apr 2013-2018). The decline has predominantly been due to a reduction in French imports, which fell by 80% to 6.3Kt since the same period in 2016/17. Previously France has been the UK’s largest import source for fresh potatoes in the past five seasons and last year was the source for 19% of all imports. Interestingly however, so far this 2017/18 season total French exports of fresh potatoes have increased compared to last year. Between July 2017 and April 2018 France exported 1.7Mt of fresh potatoes, increasing by 17% from the same period a year earlier (IHS Maritime and Trade – Global Trade Atlas® – France Customs).

Similarly imports from Netherlands have also declined dramatically (82%) in the first ten months of this season reaching only 4.2Kt compared to last year (22.7Kt). Growth of Belgian fresh potato imports have increased so far this year (Jul-Apr) however, rising by 45% to 29.2Kt making them our largest source for fresh potatoes.

Exports of fresh potatoes from the UK have increased so far this season (Jul-Apr). UK exports of fresh potato produce have increased by 5% to 152.5Kt between July 2017 and April 2018. The destination for the overwhelming majority of UK fresh potato exports is the EU, whose countries receive over 98% of UK fresh exports. Increased exports of fresh potatoes to Spain and the Netherlands have been observed (Jul-Apr) on the year in 2017/18, but they have declined to both Ireland and Belgium. Increased production of potatoes last season has led to reduced potato imports into the UK this season, resulting in the unusual situation UK being a net exporter so far this season, as shown in figure 2. However, in March and April, fresh potato imports exceeded exports, if this trends continues in the last months of the season we may see similar net trade to 2015/16.

 

Seed potatoes:

The volume of seed potatoes (HS070110) exported from the UK so far this season (Jul-Apr) is 97.7Kt according to HMRC data, with 69% of this total heading to non-EU destinations. Seed exports are largely unchanged from the same period last year (98.0Kt). Despite the total volume of seed exported unchanged on the year, the composition of this total has changed, with the predominance of the Egyptian market declining.

Exports of UK seed potatoes to Egypt declined by 27% in between Jul-Apr, falling from 57.9Kt to 42.2Kt in 2016/17 and 2017/18 respectively. Possible reasons for this decline could be that Egypt has started producing more of its own potato seed, and additionally, in the past few years Egypt could have imported more than it can use and therefore now has a surplus. Despite this, exports have increased to other destinations including Morocco (10.6Kt) and Spain (13.8Kt) so far this season which have increased on the year by 41% and 134% respectively. Exports to the EU increased year on year by 40% from 21.5Kt to 30.1Kt between July 2017 and April 2018, but are still relatively low historically. Traditionally the Netherlands have been the world’s largest seed potato exporter followed by France, Germany and then the UK.

 

In summary, UK exports of seed potatoes have been largely unchanged in the first ten months of the 2017/18 season with exports declining to Egypt but increasing to the EU. On the back of high production last year UK fresh potato exports have increased so far this season, although increased supply on the continent limits export opportunities to some extent. Fresh potato imports have unsurprisingly declined so far this season considering the large domestic surplus in store, leading to the UK becoming a net exporter for the season so far.

 

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